Ethiopian Airlines pilots fell asleep mid-flight at 37,000 feet

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Two pilots fell asleep while flying a flight from Sudan’s Khartoum to Ethiopia capital Addis Ababa. The Boeing 737-800 ET-343 was flying at 37,000 feet when the pilots fell asleep, according to Aviation Herald.

The aircraft was on autopilot and was continuing in accordance with the route set up by the Flight Management Computer (FMC) and was expected to land in the runway designated for it.

However, the air traffic controllers discovered that the flight did not land in the designated runway and also were not answering the calls made to them. The pilots woke up when the disconnect wailer rang loudly after being disconnected from the autopilot.

The crew then manoeuvred the aircraft for a safe landing on runway 25 minutes after they overflew the runway at 37,000 feet.

The aircraft remained on the ground and took off 2.5 hours later for the next flight.


Aviation analyst Alex Macheras in a tweet said that the development was concerning and more so because the aircraft overflew the runway at 37,000 feet.

“Deeply concerning incident at Africa’s largest airline — Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 #ET343 was still at cruising altitude of 37,000ft by the time it reached its destination Addis Ababa. Why hadn’t it started to descend for landing? Both pilots were asleep,” he wrote in a tweet.

Macheras then went on to point out that pilot fatigue is an old problem and is a significant problem threatening air safety internationally. “Pilot fatigue is nothing new, and continues to pose one of the most significant threats to air safety – internationally,” Macheras said.


A similar incident was reported earlier in May when two pilots fell asleep while flying a plane from New York to Rome.

Pilot associations have slammed the aviation industry’s inability to understand pilot fatigue and likened it to ‘handing car keys to a drunk driver’. The CEOs and the management of Wizz Air and Jet2, two budget flyers, were criticised after they asked pilots to go the extra mile when respective associations raised issues related to pilot fatigue.



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